An aspiring Boyle Heights artist named Frank Romero began his college education in 1959 as part of the first freshman class at the newly built Cal State L.A. campus on the edge of El Sereno. But Romero was not present when the Class of 1963 graduated. Instead, Romero left school to become a pioneering Chicano artist whose paintings and murals would be exhibited in museums and prominent public spaces. In 2009, 50 years after Romero first enrolled at Cal State L.A., Romero returned to the El Sereno campus to complete his education, earning his degree in art. On Thursday night, Oct. 6, Romero will be honored by the university as 2011 Alumnus of the Year.
Romero, in an oral history conducted in 1997, describes his first years at Cal State L.A., where he would meet Carlos Almaraz and others who would later become well-regarded Chicano painters and artists. He also gets in a few digs at his alma mater:
I was a member of the first freshman class, which was the class of ’63. So it was a brand-new university. It had just opened up, and they really didn’t even have an art building, but they took a classroom building and converted it to an art building, which was sort of makeshift. I only mention this because-this is sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety-thirty-five years later they still have the same building. [laughs]
Romero, who last this year sold his Elysian Valley studio, now divides his time between Los Angeles and France.